A Multi-Lingual Marriage

Several years ago, marriage therapist John Gray wrote a book titled, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. He tried to explain the difficulties and challenges of marriage by pointing out that men and women come from different planets. Women are from the planet Venus which is named after the goddess of love, and men are from Mars which is named after the god of war. According to Gray, if you understand this basic difference, you have a fighting chance of making your marriage work.

My problem with Gray’s thesis is this: he assumes men and women are from the same universe. Mars and Venus, after all, are in the same galaxy and in the same universe. Physics on Mars works the same way as it does on Venus. This hasn’t been my experience at all. What works in Jeannie’s world doesn’t work in my world at all. We’re not only on different planets, we’re not even in the same universe!

Jeannie is very different than me. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love all of her differences! I will say, however, it took me a long time to understand just HOW different she is from me. She looks at the world differently than I do. She uses words differently than I do. She uses silences differently than I do. I finally understood Jeannie has her own language, and if I was going to be a good husband, I had to learn to speak her language. I had to learn to speak “Jeannie-ese.”

Couples complain that the other person doesn’t talk to them. A wife will say her husband never talks to her. When I confront the husband about being non-verbal, he’s usually shocked. He’ll tell me he talks to his wife all of the time. She just doesn’t listen.

The truth is he does talk to her. The problem is he’s talking to her in HIS language. She doesn’t understand his language. (Funny, any guy would understand exactly what the husband was saying.) If she’s going to learn to talk to him, the wife is going to have to learn his language. (Yes, grunts count as entire words.)

And if he’s going to understand his wife, he’s going to have to learn to speak her language. (Sometimes, she’ll say, “OK, that’s fine” when it isn’t. A well-trained marriage linguist will recognize the difference.)

Husbands, if you love your wife, learn to speak her language. Sure, she needs to learn your language, but understand that anytime someone wants to speak something deeply important, they always go to their heart language. So, if you really want to know what matters to her, you’ll need to speak her language.

And wives, when he wants to say something important, he’ll speak in his language. Make sure you know what he’s saying.

Learn his language. Learn her language. Every marriage is multi-lingual.

How I’m Going to Talk About the Vegas Shooting

Jason Aldean was wrapping up his set at the Vegas weekend show when the shots rang out. From the 32nd floor of the hotel across the street, a deranged sniper was raining down automatic fire on the concert goers. When the shooting was over, 58 people and the shooter were dead.

And no one knows why. Investigators can’t find a note, anything on a website, or anything from his past that can be pointed to as the thing that set him off. Even if we did find it, I’m not sure it would help. One of the things that makes senseless acts of violence so hard to understand is they are, well, senseless.

Now, we’re left with the aftermath. What do we say? How do we talk about this? Do we talk about how we always have to be on guard and know our surroundings? Do we talk about how there are bad people in the world, and we have to always be wary of those people around us?

Perhaps. I guess we’ll always have to teach our children not to trust strangers.

But that’s not how I choose to tell this story.

Sonny Melton was, for all we can tell, a good old Tennessee boy. He had grown up in a small town and loved his family and his friends. He had just gotten married last year and was in Vegas with his new bride. Then, he heard the shots. He saw people falling around him, wounded and dead. In that moment, he realized his wife was in danger, and he put his body between her and the bullets as they tried to get out. He was killed. She lived. Sonny died protecting his wife.

Sonny is a hero, and that’s the story I’ll tell. I’ll tell the story that in the moment that all hell broke loose, Sonny made the choice that his wife’s life was more important than his, and he did what every hero does. He stood up and took the lead. I’ll tell the story about Sonny and countless others who stopped and treated wounded strangers and the doctors and nurses who worked around the clock treating the victims as they were brought into the hospital. I’m going to talk about security guards who, even when they realized they were being targeted first, made sure people found their way to safety.

I’m going to tell the stories about people who, when the worst moment of their lives happened, found it within themselves to be brave and compassionate. They found a way to be human in an inhuman moment.

That’s the story I’ll tell. I’ll tell it over and over again to the point that when I’m ever caught in the worst moment ever, I’ll know what to do. I’ll know how to be human.

Living in Like

You should see the looks I get from a newly engaged couple when I asked them, “Do you like each other?” They will look at each other, and then look back at me. One of them will say, “We’ve got more than ‘like.’ We love each other.”

That’s great, I tell them, but that doesn’t answer my question. “Do you like each other?”

Here’s why that’s important: you live most of your married life in “like.” Sure, there are lots of moments that overflow in passion and feelings only poets can describe, but those moments hardly make up most of your life together.

Most of your life is spent doing normal things—taking care of the kids, doing chores around the house, going to the gym, and cleaning up the kitchen. And while you’re doing these things, the person you’re married to is there all of the time.

You’d better marry somebody you like.

Do you have enough in common to make conversations easy?
Do you have enough differences to make conversations interesting?
Do you have a common worldview about life and what matters in life?
Do you have a good mix of adventure and good ol’ common sense to make life fun, but not destructive?
Can you have fun when it’s just the two of you, regardless of the situation?

Yep, the romantic moments are great—when the candles are lit and the violins are playing in the background—but those moments are like great desserts. They taste great, but they are filled with sugar.

The meat and potatoes of marriage are those moments when you’re laughing at each other because the baby just threw up on both of you or how ridiculous you both look trying to clean up the bathroom after the toilet overflowed.

Those are the moments that hold you together. Those are the moments that you remember—the moments you realize how much you like each other and fall in love all over again.

Marriage Takes 200%

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “Well you know, a good marriage is a 50-50 deal…”

Really? Think about that statement. Are we saying that a husband gives half and a wife gives half and that makes a good marriage?

Here’s a little secret that no one but me will tell you: No marriage is 50-50. Every marriage is 100-100. That is, the husband has to give all that he has to the marriage, and the wife has to give all that she has to the marriage. Both have to be “all in” or the marriage will gradually unravel in suspicion and doubt.

Now, here’s the other little secret no one but me will tell you. You always have to come up with 200%. That means sometimes you have to give more than your 100. There are times in our lives when life just becomes too hard, overwhelming, and even debilitating. During that time, you may only be able to give 60% to the marriage.That means your spouse will have to come up with the other 140%.

When Chris and Craig were little, Jeannie was a great mother, but twin boys took all of her time and energy. There wasn’t a whole lot left over for me. That meant whatever Jeannie couldn’t bring to the marriage, I had to carry. She couldn’t give any more. She didn’t have it. So, I had to give more.

In the same way, when I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, I was a lousy husband. I wasn’t even a good patient. Jeannie carried our marriage. Every day, you have to come up with 200%.

In the ups and downs of life, everyone gets a turn. Sometimes, your spouse just doesn’t have it to give. You have to make up what’s lacking. At other times, your spouse will have to bring extra to the relationship. But no matter what, every day you have to come up with 200%. Anything less than that, and you’ll be coming up short.

Great marriages have never been 50-50. They’ve always been total commitments of husbands and wives who, every day, find a way to come up with 200%